Mixed Reviews for Obama’s Speech

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


How did Obama’s hard truths play in Cairo? Over at Politico, Roger Simon notes that his speech, at times, “fell flatter than a piece of pita bread.” And when the president did move his audience to applause, it came at predictable moments. For instance, when Obama spoke of outlawing torture, “applause and whistles of approval” followed. But on other topics–9/11, confronting and isolating “violent extremists,” America’s “strong bonds” with Israel–silence.

Meanwhile, Obama’s speech was received with mixed reviews in Israel as well. During his blunt remarks, the president had said that the Palestinian people “endure the daily humiliations—large and small—that come with occupation” and remarked that their plight is “intolerable.”

UPI reports:

Analysts on Israeli television stations criticized the American president for failing to mention the word terror in his speech even once, opting instead to use violence. While the professionalism and conviction Obama delivered his speech was praised by some Israeli officials, others felt the president’s reference to the Holocaust followed by a direct passage where he spoke of the suffering and humiliation of the Palestinian people was hurtful and unnecessary.

A group of Israeli settlers had particularly–and predictably–harsh words for Obama:

“Hussein Obama gave priority to Arab lies, which have always been told with determination and daring, at the expense of the Jewish truth, which has been said in a weak and unconfident voice.”

Here in the US, Obama’s address is, unsurprisingly, playing a fair bit better. In a release, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says:

The President’s speech in Cairo is one of the first major steps in improved relations based on “mutual interests and mutual respect.” Of the many issues addressed by the President, many in Arab and Muslim communities in the Middle East and the United States waited anxiously to hear his remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. ADC commends his approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict which recognizes the 60-plus years of suffering and dispossession that Palestinians have experienced.

Furthermore, his continued commitment to end torture, close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, support women’s rights and safeguard the civil rights of all persons protected by the Constitution, projects an image of American values which is held in high regard, not only by Arabs and Muslims, but by people throughout the world.

That Obama’s speech would evoke a range of reactions was a given. He certainly made it a point to challenge all parties involved to take a deeper look at their own beliefs and wasn’t expecting to exit the stage to a worldwide rendition of Kumbaya. Obama made clear that his remarks were just the start of a much longer conversation. “No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point,” he said. “There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another and to seek common ground.”
 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate